When you feel overwhelmed

You make thousands of micodecisions every day.  The time you get out of bed.  The amount of cream in your coffee.  The length of your shower.  Along with microdecisions are macrodecisions. Do you get your child a tutor? Do you tell your boss you are behind on a deadline?  Do you hire an expert to do your taxes?

Photo by Sjale/iStock / Getty Images

The combination of thousands of microdecisions and probably dozens of macrodecisions each day can build up to feelings of overwhelm.  As you age, it gets worse.  You have to pay more attention to your health and food (or feel the side effects).  You have more assets and debts to manage.  You have increased caretaking responsibilities.

Sometimes I feel overhwhelmed to the point of mental paralyzation.  I'm speechless at this point - I am unable to make the simplest decision.  If I'm close but not quite there, I can eek out "I don't know" or "I need time to think about it" or "What do you think?" and postpone paralyzation.

If I'm paralyzed in thought it is usually from being "on" for too long without a physical or mental break.  Yesterday, I got to this point.  I was "on" all morning starting at 5am, I skipped lunch and then ate a carb-loaded meal at 2:30 with a loaded coffee drink.  I didn't let myself be present at my meal.  I watched and read closed captioning on CNN at the restaurant and checked Twitter.  I busted back to my office to keep plugging away, popping Tylenol when the headaches started.  I kept telling myself that nothing I am doing today is that stressful and taking a break wasn't going to improve how I felt.  

I dealt with headaches the rest of the night and tried to mentally wrestle my way out of how I felt physically and emotionally.   I wanted someone or something to help me feel better.  I choose ice cream - it didn't work - it just made me feel worse about myself.

There is no happy ending to how yesterday went, only that the sun will come out tomorrow.  And it is tomorrow.  I know there are a lot of things I could have done yesterday or could do today that would veer from overwhelm, but I am going to try something new.  I want to address the feeling of overwhelm by waking up my senses.

Smell. Taste. Touch. Sound. Sight.

Here is my idea.  Instead of using unhealthy methods like yelling, eating, drinking, shopping, or indulging, or doing what is healthy, but time consuming - meditating, exercising, journaling, I am going to try and activate my senses.

Here are some ideas.

In the car.
Smell - 3 deep breaths of an air freshener or essential oil
Taste - let a mint dissolve on your tongue
Touch - rub your fingers on your coat
Sound - turn off the radio and listen for your motor
Sight - take in the whole picture instead of the car right in front of you

At home.
Smell - 3 deep breaths of an unlit candle or essential oil
Taste - hold a drink in your mouth for 5 seconds
Touch - hug a human, a stuffed or real animal, or your favorite throw blanket
Sound - turn on music that helps you relax - put earbuds in if other people are around
Sight - look at a tree (outside if you can) and watch how it moves with the wind

Away from home - work, store, party
Smell - 3 deep breaths of your hair (if long enough), hands (go wash if not clean) or essential oil
Taste - let a piece of food dissolve on your tongue or hold a drink in your mouth for 5 seconds
Touch - rub legs from hips to knees or fold hands and notice each finger touching other hand
Sound - listen for background sounds and identify
Sight - study a wall hanging or observe other people's body language

If you are unable to clear your mind or your inner critic won't be quiet - think about what you are doing.  Think about it over and over again like "I am looking at a tree and watching it move, I am looking at a tree and watching it move, (repeat)".  It is impossible to have two thoughts at once, they have to wait their turn.  If you think about how you are using your senses you can't think of other things.  Neat trick, right?

Does it make sense to use your senses?  Let me know how it goes.